The Salvation Army White Shield Center (WSC) has a long history and presence in Portland, Oregon. It began in 1899, moving to its present location in 1917. A series of partnerships and mergers brought the work, passion and dedication of Charles Crittenton and Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, the Women’s Temperance Union and E. Henry Wemme through the early 1900’s with The Salvation Army (1920) as the agency that carried forth the collective mission and vision to serve vulnerable girls, women and children.

Initially a maternity hospital and home, today WSC serves the multi-faceted needs of adolescent girls, pregnant teens, teen mothers (12-20) and their young children (0-3) who are involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.  WSC’s unique residential treatment environment, with an on-site early learning center, is conducive for facilitating a two, and sometimes, three generation approach. The teen parents in the WSC community, whose lives are significantly affected by adverse childhood experiences, are coping with their own trauma in addition to navigating motherhood, sometimes without family support or a partner. Living in community, therefore, helps them to begin building their support network as they walk the path toward healing, ultimately changing the trajectory of their lives.

The impact of trauma in the lives of the young people WSC serves have personal, familial and historical context that often manifest through behaviors that helped them through difficult circumstances, but are now interfering with their progress. This is only part of their story. It is the answer to the essential first question “what happened to you?” that reveals their astonishing resilience and capacity for growth. This is where WSC develops a collaboration with them toward building their skills in the context of safe, positive adult and peer relationships. WSC’s mission is to “empower adolescent girls to lead healthy and productive lives within their families and communities.”

Programs offered at White Shield include the Wildflowers residential treatment program, a parenting program with an on-site Early Learning Center, and the Cottage Independent Living Skills program. Information about WSC’s programs, referrals, history, and more can be found on their website.

Diane Brandsma, has served as the Executive Director at The Salvation Army White Shield Center since December 2009. Diane began her career working as a counselor at a residential treatment center for adolescent girls in Aurora, CO. She earned her MA in Counseling and served as an adolescent and family therapist for twelve years in both the residential treatment and foster care settings, predominantly working with girls. Prior to serving at White Shield Center, Diane worked for Catholic Community Services of the Mid-Willamette Valley as a Senior Director; her responsibilities included oversight of a therapeutic foster care program, community counseling center and drug and alcohol treatment program.